Tag Archives: movie

Juan of the Dead (2011)

Juan of the Dead, Juan de los MuertosJuan Of The Dead (AKA Juan de los Muertos) is fun Spanish-Cuban zombie comedy.  If you’re like me, you just gotta appreciate a Z-film that shows its first zombie kill in under three minutes into the story development. Oh yes, it may be a new record!

Without any explanation zombies appear in Cuba and start eating people.  Middle-aged slacker Jaun, along with his fellow small-time crooks and deadbeats, take to the streets of Havana to face an army of the undead.  Emergency news reports are broadcast amid the chaos…  The surge of living-dead have been identified as ‘dissidents’ revolting against the Cuban government.  The regime accuses the USA for the attack.  Everything is under control even when nothing is being done.  Seeing opportunity, Jaun gathers and trains his friends to be zombie killers and starts a business called “Juan Of The Dead — We’ll kill your loved ones”.

For those familiar with the Cuban regime and its people, the movie is a hard critic to both — which is why it was never released in Cuba and apparently was only shown on-screen at film festivals.  Juan Of The Dead attempts to mock every cinematic clichés (daughter hating father, friend about to die, farewell , even Matrix-style fights).  The nuances of Cuban humor can get lost-in-translation to non-Spanish speakers — for example — in one of the most celebrated jokes, Juan is asked to kill a cow but he refuses because it is too dangerous; In Cuba killing a cow is worse crime than killing people.

Zombie film fans will will be pleasantly surprised with this film especially with seeing fun nods to Shaun Of The Dead.  There was one thing I saw in particular that I have seen in another zombie film*.  The film is in Spanish and subtitled — sorry, no over-dubs.  This film is Not Rated, and aside from the zombie gore and violence there is some nudity (including z-film boobs) and adult humor/topics.  Oh — and how do I rate Juan Of The Dead ? … Light Green to full Green.
(*Select this line to read the spoiler –> Underwater zombies walking on the ocean floor that seem to be able to swim up if it means getting a bite … though that bite could come from a shark!  Oh yeah, this was also done in Pirates Of The Caribbean<– all the way to here)

Juan of the Dead – IMDbWikipedia, and Rotten Tomatoes

World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries (2011)

World of the Dead, The Zombie Diaries 2, 2011
Remember how the cover for the first film has NOTHING to do with the film? Well, consistency is supposed to be good…

Have you ever had the experience where someone you know excitedly says “Hey, ya gotta see this film!“?  Then once you watch it you’re left thinking “What the heck was that about?”, or worse “There is something SERIOUSLY WRONG with my friend!”  Welcome to to World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2.

Immediately you can tell that this project has a higher budget and is visually more satisfying than the 2006 predecessor.  Then you get into the story and you start to see the problems…

The first thing you notice — as with the original film — is that the DVD cover is once again horribly misleading.  The cover art looks better than the film, and it represents something other than the content of the film.

Field full of zombies
I’m warning you — act like threatening zombies or we’ll shoot you!!!

The zombies feel very non-threatening — even less than in the original film.  The make-up is insufficient, the scares nearly non-existent, and the zombies are often so stiff they would be played better by untrained department store mannequins.  Add to that, when it comes to shooting the zombies I get the impression that the British film makers don’t have a clue as to what firearms sound like anymore (especially in the scene pictured).  The firearm sound effects left me non-pulsed — perhaps they were just the on-location recording of the blanks the actors were firing.

The biggest downfall of the movie…

World of the Dead, The Zombie Diaries 2, 2011
Yep, they should have stuck with this poster as the DVD cover

… aside from the emaciated plot and the you-are-there hand-held cinematography — are some of the specific content choices that film makers Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates included.  Various gangs of survivors prove to be even more vile than the zombies.  This is well summed up in a review by FlickeringMyth.com when they wrote…

“There are a couple of, frankly, unneeded rape scenes (one on a female zombie) that just felt like Bartlett and Gates wanted to do some kind of rape revenge film, but gave up and worked zombies into it”.

Frankly it left this bagpiper & humble amateur zombie-film reviewer astounded.  I cannot recall feeling this disturbed by any zombie film I have previously seen.  This content included a challenged young man bullied into delivering a beating upon one of the primary male characters, and then pushed into committing a graphic rape/murder on one of the female primaries.  I have to wonder where the writer and his co-director think that this was appropriate, or fit within the film!  I also have to wonder about the actors (or even the crew) assuming they saw the script before they agreed to do the film — why would they participate in bringing this film to fruition?

Is there any redemption for this film?

World of the Dead, The Zombie Diaries 2, 2011, gas mask
Me around people who smoke

There are elements to this film that really work — the albeit over-used zombie-trope military element, the military and civilian survivors trying to escape from England, and the guys who ambiguously appear wearing protective suits and gas masks.  However it seems as though Bartlett and Gates thought that their ideas were so great — so sound — that they didn’t think to check their script or finished film with a third party.  And if they did, they didn’t listen to them say “There’s some good stuff here, but over all THIS IS A BAD IDEA.”  Or maybe they just half-assed it and figured this would fill a feature.  In the end, it is as The Daily Mail described the film, it’s an “88 minute waste of electricity.”, and I rate it Red Blood.

Seriously, I’m starting to think I ought to make a list titled “Zombie Films To Avoid Watching“.  Do you think I would have this one on it?  YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!

A List Of Words Irrelevant To This Zombie Film
World of the Dead, The Zombie Diaries 2, 2011
At least you see one of these folks in the film — but destroyed city, a massive horde of zombies? Nope nope-nope!
  • Smash hit
  • Phenomenon

Links

pew pew pew
pew pew pew!

Raiders of the Damned (2007)

Raiders of the Damned (2007)As soon as I started watching Raiders of the Damned I noted a newly-learned familiar stink.  YEP … this film gets rated Red Blood.

This should be an ideal film for me — containing both zombies and Sci-Fi — but this is made by a garbage movie company called The Asylum, which LARGELY JUST RIPS OFF OTHER FILMS.

Garbage, Garbage, Garbage…

The zombie costumes & weapons are laughable, and their make-up is just plain bad.  The lacking story line is only outdone by the dribbling charactre development — and posturing of hokey military badassedness.  The description sounds like it should have something, but it just isn’t there.

Raiders of the Damned (2007)

When all is said and done, this film too will make no careers of its unknown actors who either can’t act or lack worthy direction, nor will this film win an Oscar … hell, it might be so bad it wouldn’t even win acknowledgement from The Razzies.

Even when it’s bad Z/B-film, for the sake of these reviews & my project I tend to finish a flick even if I am not directly watching it, but I shut this one off 20 minutes in — the people who want to see something that will make SyFy Channel films look good can have the additional 67 minutes.

LINKS

Raiders of the Damned (2007) – IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

In 1988 a Harvard doctor by the name of Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) has been hired by a large pharmaceutical corporation to travel to Haiti in 1985 (without the use of a time machine) to investigate the case of a man who died in 1978 and has apparently returned to life with the aid of a Voodoo drug.  The pharmaceutical corporation wants Dr. Alan to acquire the zombie drug so they can research it with the intent to mass produce and sell it as a type of “super anesthetic”.  While in Haiti Dr. Alan hooks up with a brainy local hot chick by the name of Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) and gets mixed up in deception and Voodoo.  Apparently this fictional film is loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name.

Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) doing the Safety Dance … either that or she’s tied up. Who knows … it was the 80s!

Or at least to say, if you have a sense of humor, you can interpret this film that way and write big long run-on sentences, because really who reads all of these reviews anyway?  (Although I was told once that a person read and had a good laugh at my review of the zombie film “Billy Elliot” — yes, it’s a zombie film.)

So on a more serious note… well, somewhat more serious…

This film was budgeted at $7M and made nearly $20M at the box office, so I don’t know if that makes it good but the marketing was good enough to get people to watch it.  I guess Wes Craven was trying to cash-in on his good name and Nightmare on Elm Street success.  Whatever the case, it kind of looks like an 80s film and it definitely feels like an 80s horror-mystery film.  I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to watch this, but if you are looking for something to play while you hang out … well, spin it up.  I’d rate this film Yellow Puss.

The Serpent and the Rainbow at IMDb and Wikipedia

Black Swan (2010)

Adding this title to this list came with a small debate. A big portion of it is a psychological thriller; its also about an artist making a personal break-through into a different area of their craft. Someone else might call me a dufass saying I missed the point entirely — and maybe I did, but the film is also subjective. To me, it had something to say about working within an art form that has an exacting/purist community surrounding it and breaking through … and that for me is the greatest point of the film.

Black Swan at IMDB and Wikipedia

DIY or DIE: How To Survive as an Independent Artist (2002)

If you’re an independent artist of any type, you’ll want to see this. At the beginning of the piece the film-maker states his point to project & what he wanted to explore — and over the course of the film I don’t feel that his interviewees proved, represented or developed his point … at all. However, the interviewees speak a lot about the passion behind their work and doing it successfully their way regardless of what “The Industry” indicates.

DIY or DIE at IMDB and Wikipedia

NOTE – The full title of this film is DIY or DIE: How To Survive as an Independent Artist (AKA DIY or DIE: Burn This DVD)

Once (2007)

I found out about “Once” while watching extras to the film Begin Again.  Once was written & directed by the same director — John Carney — and stars Irish musician/actor Glen Hansard and Czech musician/actress Markéta Irglová.

Usually when I make note of a music-related film it’s because I strongly related to it relative to music — it struck a chord (no pun intended) in me, it spoke to me about the experience and the inexpiable thing that is music … this one is hard to write about.  More than anything I think for me this film speaks to me because of the busking and because of the from-the-core music of the male lead, played by Irish musician/actor Glen Hansard.

Frankly, it’s difficult to write about because I missed about 15 minutes of the film about 1 hour in — the DVD sketched out, which is a typical problem with films I get from the library.  From what I could tell visually I predict that there were important elements to the story line, especially having to do with the ending.  It was very disappointing and I’d like to get my hands on a non-blemished copy so I can get the full story.  I liked that the film was shot hand-held — it made it feel human, that you were with the guy & gal leads having their experience.  Which is another thing … I didn’t realize until I saw the credits that they never have names in the film — as listed in the credits, they are “guy” & “girl”.

Maybe the two areas where this particularly spoke to me …

  • One, it was shot on the streets of Dublin.  I’ve barely spent four days there, but places were familiar.  I particularly recognized parts around the Temple Bar area, and know that a lot of famous performers out of Ireland have come from there.  Despite aspects that didn’t register well with me — that it’s a tourist town with too many poor mannered American college kids, and there are a lot of immigrants and it was hard to find Irish people in Dublin/Ireland — I no less came away knowing that I wanted to return and see more of not just the city but the country.
  • Two, I identified with this film from the standpoint of being a broke musician — dealing with the challenges that come with trying to survive, trying to live your passion (music), and trying to keep your music supported financially when you are struggling to pay rent and for food.

Also, similar to what I got out of Begin Again, I think this film spoke to me about going for it with your music — being venerable with your art and releasing every inhibition to touch the depth of each emotion present in a tune, in a song, and playing it despite judgment, despite an audience, and regardless of what stage you’re on.

Ultimately, about this film, I can’t put my finger on why I’m writing about this one or its importance why a musician or non-musician should see it — but there is something about it that I can’t let it go without note, it touches something inexpiable which is a huge part of music itself.  This film is not just a story, it’s not just a vignette of drama, it does not fall into the ranks of ‘just a music film’ as it is music itself.

I think it’s fair to say that there are some common threads that go through this film that also go through Begin Again, and given how I responded to Begin Again maybe that’s why I respond to its predecessor Once.

PS – I essentially just watched the film a second time.  Without giving anything away, there is an element to the ending – perhaps a few, but one in particular – that to me is beautiful, it is subtle yet it is powerful, it is joy and it is balance.  You might & you might not see it; it may be a musician thing.  If you don’t see it, that’s okay.

Once at IMDB and Wikipedia

Glen Hansard at IMDBWikipedia, and his Official Website

Markéta Irglová at IMDB Wikipedia and her Official website

John Carney at IMDB and Wikipedia

Begin Again (2013)

Cut to the chase — in fact, it makes sense for me me to start on that given how this film struck me.  The story is good, but it wasn’t the important thing to me, but it supported what I saw as the bigger point to the film … which maybe comes out to a musician viewing the film as opposed to a non-musician.  So maybe now you’re saying I haven’t cut to the chase, but you’d be wrong — I’m coming off as cryptic because I haven’t written the rest of my point supporting my what would be cryptic.

Right, so, let’s get on with it.

So here’s the basis of the story …

A British song-writer breaks-up with her rising-pop-star boyfriend and gets noticed for one of her songs by an out-of-work record producer when she performs at an open-mic in NYC the night before she was going to return to England.  The music producer convinces her to stay and record an album with him but they don’t have money or other support to make it.  Through portable gear and musicians of varying abilities they take her songs to the streets and record live around New York.  The first track gets recorded in an alley, another in Central Park, one on a train platform, the last on the roof of a building.

Here’s my thing from this film …

To date I have more than 30 concepts for albums that I want to record.  To date I have done a lot of work toward five or twelve of these and haven’t recorded a single note maybe beyond a few demos.  Five or so years ago I got myself into a playing-skill space over a three-day weekend.  I was back in school at the time — busy — I felt that if I could keep working during the coming school week that I could belt out recording my part the following weekend.  Well, I returned to school, was busy with school work (remember, ‘busy’), and didn’t continue to practice hence I didn’t make the recording.  But what if I had?  What if I just made the recording, even if I wasn’t that little blip further along in my ability.  I thought of it then, figuring that I’d be better off to do it, to make it, — to have a recording to work with it if I didn’t get to push for that little bit better playing ability.

Why not record?  Why not record every performance, record every time you’re close to the idea you want to record?  I’m not talking about studio recording – I can’t record that, many musicians can’t.  I’m talking about personal gear.  These days you can get good equipment that’s pretty easy to use, really for not much money.  At a guess, I’ve spent about a thousand dollars on music gear — about half new and half used.  I’ve read a little how to use it, I’ve experimented with it, I’ve asked advise of folks who are in the know, and I’ve captured recordings that sound at least pretty good – recordings that can be worked with.  Likely, had I recorded and later recorded the other musicians, got the album finished, let’s face it … it wouldn’t have been the last time I played those numbers … and I could have recorded them again.  I could have taken the album and booked myself for small performances, maybe had something special happen on some night, and recorded that too.

I’m not saying playing bad is good or making a garbage recording is acceptable.  Play well and make a good recording, but neither have to be some ideal of ‘perfection’.  It’d be better to play, perform, and record as opposed to never doing any.  The Grateful Dead recorded their songs, released, and once touring always played exactly as they did on their albums?  NO!  Their recordings were a foundation to work from, to create upon.  Record – get the playing, get the moment, do it instead of don’t, you may get something unique.

I didn’t cut to the chase, did I?

By the way … if you like Begin Again — which was directed by John Carney — I urge you to watch Once (2007), which Mr. Carney both wrote & directed.

Begin Again at IMDB and Wikipedia

Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage (2010)

This film gave me a renewed interest for the band.

I appreciated that the band has always made their music their way rather regardless of industry trends.  For them the creativity and pushing their skill is what is most important.

Using and transitioning between different time signatures has always been an important element to their music — and they do so seamlessly.  With this a musician who understands time signatures follows along and is impressed by their work and yet with the seamless transitions someone who is not musically inclined follows their music and also experiences the energy of their work.  While this makes them a musician’s band they have always also been the people’s band.

Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage at IMDB and Wikipeida